If you’re eating a well-balanced diet each day, you may be consuming more protein than you think. Although sedentary people need less protein than athletes, consuming plenty of protein can help them optimize lean muscle mass and maintain a healthy body weight. In fact, protein is emphasized in many weight-loss diets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most adults in the U.S. get more than enough protein.
Protein recommended dietary allowances, or RDAs, are set by the Institute of Medicine and estimated to meet the needs of the majority of people in each age and gender group. RDAs for adults are based on gender, not activity level; therefore, a sedentary man has the same RDA as one who exercises regularly. Protein RDAs are 71 grams for pregnant and nursing women, 56 grams for men and 46 grams of protein each day for non-pregnant, non-nursing women.
Grams per Pound
RDAs are determined using 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 0.36 grams per pound of body weight each day, which is estimated to meet the needs of sedentary individuals. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds you’d need about 50 grams of protein each day.
If you’re pregnant or nursing, you need 1.1 grams per kilogram, or about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of your pre-pregnancy body weight. If you’re sedentary but recovering from an illness, injury or surgery, you’ll likely need additional protein. An article published in a 2006 edition of “Nutrition in Clinical Practice” suggests that patients recovering from a traumatic injury may need 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram, or about 0.68 to 0.91 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.
Percent of Calories
The Institute of Medicine recommends you consume 10 to 35 percent of your calorie intake from protein. Since protein provides four calories per gram, this is equivalent to consuming 45 to 158 grams of protein when eating 1,800 calories per day, and 55 to 193 grams of protein each day when consuming a 2,200-calorie meal plan.
Weight Loss Considerations
If you’re sedentary and trying to lose weight, you may benefit from slightly boosting your protein intake and modestly reducing your carbohydrate and fat intake, according to a review published in a 2008 edition of “Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity.” However, to avoid negative side effects and reduce your health risks, aim to stick with the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations of consuming 10 to 35 percent of your calories from protein. For example, when consuming a 1,200-calorie weight-loss diet, limit yourself to 105 grams of protein per day, and when following a 1,600-calorie weight-loss plan consume up to 140 grams of protein each day.
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.